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Frequently Asked Questions About Palliative Care


- What is palliative care?
- How do I get more information on palliative care?
- What is a palliative care program?
- What type of patient benefits from palliative care?
- What types of services does a palliative care program provide?
- Why do hospitals have palliative care programs?
- What is the difference between palliative care and hospice?
- What is the difference between a palliative care program and a pain program?
- How many hospitals have palliative care programs?
- How is palliative care paid for?





How do I get more information on palliative care?

If you are interested in learning about palliative care programs, the Center to Advance Palliative Care provides extensive training, tools and technical assistance on how to plan, implement, establish and sustain successful palliative care programs. For more information on palliative care educational opportunities visit our Education, Training and Fellowships section. Click on the following link for Standards of Practice for palliative care. 

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How is palliative care paid for?

Physicians bill for their services under Medicare Part B and other health insurance policies.  Hospitals continue to bill under appropriate DRGs.  Palliative care also has a well-documented impact on cost avoidance and often generates philanthropic gifts from families of patients receiving good palliative care.

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What type of patient benefits from palliative care?

Any patient with advanced illness can benefit from the many aspects of palliative care, from the point of diagnosis.  Palliative care is best introduced early in the course of treatment, but it can help patients at all stage of a serious illness.

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What is the difference between a palliative care program and a pain program?

Pain control is one component of good palliative care.  Hospital palliative care programs work in coordination with pain units and may include pain specialists on the interdisciplinary team that coordinates patient care.  But palliative care manages many other important symptoms, including dyspnea, fatigue, nausea, anxiety and depression.  Palliative care also provides support to patients and families in making medical decisions, developing plans of care and planning transitions between medical settings.

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What is the difference between palliative care and hospice?

Palliative care supports seriously ill patients from the point of diagnosis throughout the course of their illness.  It may be provided concurrent with other medical treatment, including curative treatment.  The Medicare Hospice benefit focuses on providing supportive care for patients who are at the end-of-life and are no longer receiving curative treatment.

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Why do hospitals have palliative care programs?

More and more academic, community and faith-based hospitals are starting palliative care programs to achieve key institutional goals.  Palliative care programs ensure delivery of the highest quality of care by building the necessary systems to treat the growing number of people with serious, advanced and complex illnesses.  Hospitals with palliative care programs decrease length of hospital and ICU stays and ease patient transitions between care settings, resulting in increased patient and family satisfaction and compliance with hospital care quality standards.

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How many hospitals have palliative care programs?

While just a handful of palliative care programs were in existence five years ago, today over 800 hospitals (17% of community hospitals and 26% of academic heath centers) in the U.S. provide palliative care services to their patients.   In 2002 the American Hospital Association reported a 20 percent increase in the number of hospital-based palliative care programs over the previous year.  The Center to Advance Palliative Care is dedicated to further increasing the number of palliative care programs in hospitals and other health care settings by providing health professionals with training, tools and technical assistance to start and sustain successful palliative care programs. 

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What types of services does a palliative care program provide?

For patients, palliative care provides vigorous treatment of the pain, symptoms and stress of serious illness so they can maintain the best quality of life throughout their illness, focus on their daily activities and tolerate any other treatments they are receiving.  The palliative care team works closely with the primary physician to deliver well-coordinated and communicated care and to provide guidance and counseling about complex treatment choices to the patient and family members.

For clinicians, palliative care supports and assists their efforts to provide the highest quality bedside care to patients and their families.  The palliative care team supports clinicians’ treatment of patients by providing patient-family case management and coordination and ensuring safe and effective management of complex and changing symptoms.

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What is a palliative care program?

A palliative care program structures a variety of hospital resources – medical and nursing specialists, social workers and clergy – to effectively deliver high-quality, coordinated care to patients with advanced illness.  Successful palliative care programs use an array of delivery systems, from consultative services to inpatient units. 

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What is palliative care?

Palliative care is interdisciplinary health care specializing in relief of suffering and achievement of best possible quality of life for patients with advanced illness, and their families.  It is offered simultaneously with all other appropriate medical treatment.

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